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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

Editorial: Imperative to draw good students into teaching

Happy are the university officials responsible for placing education graduates.

A check of Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area school districts websites reveals an almost universal need for certificated teachers on the cusp of the 2015-2016 school year opening. Some are still posting openings.

From a teacher glut of just a few years ago, the balance has swung to scarcity. As Washington schools continue to move to full-day kindergarten and shrink class sizes from the third grade down, the crunch will get worse.

Central Valley School District, for example, will not have districtwide all-day kindergarten until a K-second-grade school in Liberty Lake is finished.

If the state is forced to implement Initiative 1351, which would extend the smaller class mandate through high school, thousands of additional teachers will be needed, along with the classrooms to accommodate them. Yet, Washington is already alarmingly dependent on other states for its new teachers. In 2014, 57 percent of new certificated teachers got their education out of state. Idaho imported less than 25 percent.

In part, the shortage is a hangover from the recession, when districts everywhere were cutting staff. University students looked to other majors with seemingly better prospects.

Washington universities graduated only 1,678 teachers in 2012, down from 4,370 just two years earlier. The 2014 class numbered 2,410, which helps explain the reliance on outsiders. Idaho graduated just 599 in 2012, less than one-half the number in 2014.

Coeur d’Alene School District Superintendent Matt Handelman says capturing as much in-state talent as possible is vital to Idaho schools. And new revenue from the state, though small, has allowed the district to win recruitment battles that were one-sided in the past.

The red flags went up early in Spokane Public Schools, which started its recruiting effort in January, two months ahead of its usual schedule.

Human Resources Director Mary Templeton says the district had 500 of its 2,000 certification positions to fill, although many will come from permanently hiring teachers who had one-year contracts. At job fairs, good candidates were signed to letters of intent before other districts could get them.

Partnerships with Eastern Washington, Gonzaga and Whitworth universities were strengthened by bringing more students into classrooms as interns. Once comfortable with the district’s culture, they are more likely to stay.

And the district pounced on the best of the teachers laid off by an Arizona district. Other prospects were found in Nevada and Oregon. The aggressive recruitment has the district with almost a full complement of teachers, Templeton says.

Just in time.

Education has always been a dynamic industry characterized by cyclical enrollments, changing curriculums and, often, too much political hands-on. If we want stability, and quality, we need to attract more of the best students to the teaching profession.

Students won’t earn A’s if our effort is no better than a C.

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